Job’s ten gut-wrenching cries he prefaced by an ‘Oh!’

Speakers of Hebrew and English can express their frustration dramatically by deliberately expelling air from their lungs to launch a sentence of deep emotion that starts with an explosive ‘Oh’. For example:

[] ‘Oh will you kids take your noisy games out of doors and spare me a headache?’

[] ‘Oh, so it was all my fault, according to you, Madame Infallible!’

That initial ‘Oh’ can also sometimes be a quiet sigh:

[] ‘Oh if only my good friend overseas were here to share this current blessing of ours!’

Speakers of Latin and ancient Greek could of course give vent to a theatrical tone of voice, but without this grammatical facility.

Godly Job made full use of that gut-felt ‘Oh’ ten times during the days of his exasperation at his friends’ failure to recognise that his recent bankruptcy, bereavement, and bodily agony were not due to some sin that he had committed by any actions or words, or even in his thoughts or motives. Each heartfelt Oh is translated faithfully in the English Standard Version.

God rightly ignored a few of Job’s explosive complaints, but most of them he answered . . .  eventually. His cries fall into four familiar categories:

  1. Pleas for annihilation – that God simply ignored

Job gave voice to these desires early on in his period of painful exchanges with his friends:

[] ‘Oh that my vexation were weighed and all my calamity laid in the balances … it would be heavier than the sand of the sea, therefore my words have been rash’ (Job 6:2). He seems to regret his outburst of ‘Why? Why? Why?’ half a dozen times in his initial reaction (Job 3:11-26).

[] ‘Oh that I might have my request and that God would fulfil my hope, that it would please God to crush me, that he would let loose his hand and cut me off! This would be my comfort; I would even exult in pain unsparing, for I have not denied the words of the Holy One’ (Job 6:8-9).

  1. Pleas for confrontation – that God granted

[] ‘Oh, that I knew where I might find him [God](Job 23:3). Well, actually God found Job instead at the conclusion of his period of testing.

[] ‘Oh, that I had one to hear me!’ (Job 31:35a). Soon this saint will know for sure that he has been heard – clearly and fully!

  1. Pleas for vindication -that God confirmed

[] ‘Oh that you would hide me in Sheol [the grave, New Living Translation], that you would conceal me until your wrath is past, that you would appoint me a set time, and remember me!’ (Job 14:13). Here Job’s request sounds like that of the repentant thief crucified beside Jesus on Calvary: ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom’ (Luke 23:46). Job continued: ‘If a man dies, shall he live again? All my days of my service I would wait, till my renewal [or ‘relief’, the Hebrew word resembles the verb for ‘sprout ‘used a few verses earlier in Job 14:7, implying the growth of a plant that had been buried in the earth] – ’till my renewal should come’ (Job 14:14).

Job utters a triplet of Oh cries as he reaches the peak of his annoyance and starts to get a clearer perspective on his grief.

[] ‘Oh that my words were written! Oh that they were inscribed in a book. Oh that with an iron pen and lead they were engraved in the rock forever! For I know that my redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God’ (Job 19:23-26). Well Job’s words and those of his friends, and those of the Lord are all recorded here in Scripture, indeed as permanently as if engraved in granite! And, through his heath and resurrection, ascension and promised return, Job’s Redeemer and ours lives again, assuring us that ‘in our [risen] flesh’ we too ‘shall see God’. Hallelujah!

  1. Pleas for restoration – that God answered ‘with added interest’

Throughout six consecutive chapters Job presents the summing up of his legal arguments. He longs in chapter 29 to turn the clock back to his golden days before disaster struck. He begins:

[] ‘Oh, that I were as in the months of old, as in the days when God watched over me [as my Guardian], when his lamp shone upon my head and by his light I walked through darkness [as his Guide]’ (Job 29:2-3; see Job 29:2-25).

In the law of Moses, restoration of stolen or ruined goods belonging to another included the equivalent values of the objects or livestock plus compensation. ‘And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job when he had prayed for his friends. And the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before’ (Job 42:10).

  1. Job’s final Oh!

If you’ve been counting you’ll be looking for ‘Oh!’ number ten.

[] ‘Oh, that I had the indictment written by my adversary’ (Job 31:35b). I wonder if that request was ever answered. Well, Satan never presented his basic argument in writing; his criticism of God concerned his adversarial optimism, and was delivered as speech. ‘He will curse you to your face’, he dared to predict of Job – so very wrongly. He prefaced his case with the sarcastic question: ‘Does Job fear God for no reason?’ (Job 1:18). But why speculate when, instead, we can feast on the delights of this very readable Bible book? Let’s just tuck in!

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